A Visit with My Friends/Collectors in their Palatial Home
Visiting Beziers and Making Amends
About 6 years ago I flew in and out of France to give a workshop. When my European/American friend Bonnie found out that I’d been there, she was terribly disappointed that I didn’t visit. This year I gave Bonnie and her husband Robin notice that I had 3 extra days before my art workshop would begin in Provence. To my great delight, both of them managed to come from London (main residence) and Germany (work) so that I could stay with them at their Beziers home!
Artworks Are Like Puppies
It was an opportunity to catch up with dear friends, to get updates on their adult kids –who I knew before they were born – and revisit some of my works and those of some of my past students. People say paintings are like the artist’s children, but that is hyperbole. Perhaps a better analogy is that an artist is like the head of a dog shelter and the pups are under his care until he finds loving homes for them.
My brother committed suicide and this is a memorial drawing.
A Reddit commentator gave condolences and then wrote “I love the grain of the table magnified by the water in the glass.” That names so well the visual.
The Problem with Glass
Michelangelo paints and draws humans not so much how he sees them but what his hands would feel massaging their bodies. Bone stands out and soft spots become indented. Glass is tricky because we literally see through it but if you draw it that way it doesn’t feel tactically real. See if you can observe that the patterns inside the glass float up to the front side of the glass; as if you could reach out and tap the glass.
For many people, the sexy, entitled lifestyle of living on the luxurious mile-long stretch of Pacific coastline in La Jolla, California in the 1960s was the height of success. For me as a kid it was exhilarating to build up a salty sunburned sweat, leap into the air, and be able to execute a brutal backhand overhead smash on the tennis court. (Later I ended up playing pro tennis to pay for my art education in Holland). Afterwards, to cool off, I’d ditch my shoes and socks and run a few hundred feet from the tennis court and plunge underneath the perfect wave crests made famous by the Beach Boys, All Over La Jolla … Surfin’ USA! The feeling of freedom was omnipresent; no rules, no school if you didn’t feel like going; no homework; and no curfew. It was as if kids had a built in automatic path, their destiny awaiting them, meanwhile they could do anything. There was also stuff you couldn’t talk about … which was way too complex for a kid to cope with. And later shushed because it involved people still alive. I lived in a world of physical fun with an ominous feeling that not all was well when you scratched the surface.
Mediocre artists, forever disappointed that they don’t match up, have a hard time acknowledging history’s great artists. Michelangelo, Monet, Vermeer, and Rembrandt are hard mentors. One way second-rate artists work around this is to change the rules of aesthetics. The most extreme case is postmodern aesthetics, which obliterates the importance of mastery of the medium, or using any medium at all, and believes shock concepts are the essence of art requiring no skill.
Cutting to the chase a painting that is flat is more like a cereal box than like a Rembrandt. What makes painting interesting is transforming forms, depth, and light from the real world to a canvas. It is a very complex visual language that conceptualizes how we see, and it triggers suspension of disbelief, rewarding us with the perception of movement and light. A painter cannot just cut and paste reality to the canvas, the transition deals with how we perceive, how light bounces off forms and textures, painting techniques, and oddly, even how well our studios are calibrated for light.
Some years ago I was having trouble painting. I would stand back and see a mistake and try to paint a correction, but when I got up close to the painting I just couldn’t capture the nuance I was hoping for. I was getting near 60 years old and I decided to totally re-educate myself about painting (even though I already had four decades of painting behind me). The project was to paint a sandstone orb that has personal significance to me. My studio has the greatest daylight from 11 am to noon, and I like to paint into the night, so figuring out the artificial light was essential. I painted each orb under different artificial lighting conditions. I also used every painting technique I knew, from thin liquid applications to scumbling to super thick blobs of paint. This series of nine alla prima paintings, all in private collections, were the result of these explorations.
Death touched my life when three people near me, in the same year, died. The horrible result was that I felt nothing.
One of them was a Dutch woman I didn’t know very well, but we were related in a sense. I knew she had been ill for some time with breast cancer. She had a husband and four children, the oldest being eleven or twelve years old. I was told that she was ready to die, and I was also told that she would like to meet with me the next day. Continue reading “Rend”
Don’t follow a map, don’t read anything, don’t ask, don’t look at other people, don’t try to make it worthwhile, and don’t try to “get it.” Just start walking, glancing as you are moving quickly along. Don’t feel bad if nothing “speaks” to you; just keep moving on. It might be in the 10th room, but there will be some work that will grab your attention. Stop there and just look at it. And look until you feel you are ready to move on. That is it.
You will find that experience lights a spark. In a nutshell, it is a personal experience of art. After that you might be interested to research art, movements, and artists. But none of that replaces the unique spark that speaks to you.
First they came for black and removed it from our spectrum. Next to go were the colors of light and shadow. They said that color was a power in its own right, not to be used as a slave to luminosity. The real, they said, was freedom from restrictions.
They came for form, claiming that the canvas was flat. Next to go were proportion and spatial depth. They said that painting projected the outside world, like looking through a window was a lie. The real, they said, was that paint was paint and it shouldn’t look like something it is not. Continue reading “First They Came for Black”
Anonymous art Prankster Bansky adds another twist to the shredded Girl with Balloons by officially titling it Love is in the Bin. As some comedians are great with wordplay Bansky is great with art history play: creating a new work while it was sold at auction; a new way to destroy art; jesting Duchamp while simultaneously making a great anti-art piece; a new variation on trash as art; appealing to greedy capitalists while simultaneously trashing the artifact and doubling its financial value; and poking fun at serious art. You could say Bansky’s cleverness wins, or does it?
Left to Right: Dr. Gary Geier, Eva Newberry, me, Emily Newberry
For decades now I have been living the romantic version of the isolated artist’s life: too passionate to be a sell out, smart enough to own every second of my time, and calculated enough to always have a functioning art studio. The big winners from this have been the artworks–they are just what they need to be. The negative has been that I have blocked out friends, family, events, and issues that appear to have no resolutions.
The art has been going very well. I am continuously extending my boundaries, trying new emotions, playing with imagination, and always refining. The threat of homelessness has been greatly reduced, and I have been experiencing a gentle open space. All of a sudden I saw that there were these wonderful people watching me from the wings applauding. Continue reading “Down Under and Back”